Singapore netballers aim for Nations Cup
Netball coach Aitken says team will win title if they play to their potential
They want the trophy and their coach thinks they have what it takes to do it.
But can the national netball team win the invitational Nations Cup this year?
History and timing will be against Vanessa Lee and Co. when the annual tournament starts this Sunday at the OCBC Arena.
In the 10-year history of the competition, Singapore have won only twice - the inaugural 2006 edition and in 2007.
Also, the current team are going through a transitional phase.
They are unchanged from the side that finished third in the Asian Championship in Bangkok earlier this month, but they have only one tournament under their belt.
But national coach Ruth Aitken believes that her players can go all the way, against teams whose world rankings are close to Singapore, who are placed 17th in the world.
"Whenever you go into a tournament, you'd want to win... That's got to be the overall goal," said the 60-year-old Kiwi in a media session yesterday at Netball Singapore's Kallang headquarters.
"That's why you play sport, otherwise you'd stay home."
But the former New Zealand international player and coach is experienced enough to know that her players must be at their best the entire week to reach Saturday week's final.
The Singaporeans will start their campaign this Sunday against Ireland, ranked 25th in the world, before taking on Papua New Guinea (15th), Zambia (16th), Canada (18th) and Botswana (19th) in the round-robin stages.
Aitken said: "We are realistic as to where the team are at the moment and so we've got to go with each day and get ourselves in the best position to really go for that win in the end.
"I truly believe that if we can play to our potential for six games in seven days, that we will be right there in the end.
"But I have also been around for an awful many years and I know how much challenge there is."
WORKING TO IMPROVE
A new-look team, shorn of retired internationals Micky Lin, Premila Hirubalan and Chen Huifen, failed to retain their Asian title earlier this month, although Lee and her teammates have been working out the kinks since then.
The list includes improving communication on court, fine-tuning the links between the attacking players and handling pressure situations.
Lee, 32, said: "I thought the Asian champ was a good outing for a team that got together not too long ago.
"Heading into the Nations Cup, we know exactly what we have to work on and we are definitely working towards having a better Nations Cup campaign."
Other than the World Cup, which takes place once every four years, and the biennial Asian Championship, the Nations Cup presents Singapore with the next best opportunity to learn and grow on the international stage.
Aitken says a semi-professional league, like the Asean Basketball League, will do the region a lot of good in the sport's development, but admitted that Asia is not yet at the stage where such a tournament can be sustained.
"That's probably a step too far at the moment... That would be a fantastic longer-term goal, but a lot of work will need to be done for that to happen," said the former Silver Ferns coach.
RARING TO GO: Singapore netballers are aiming to win the Nations Cup, but it won't be an easy task as they have won the competition only twice in its 10-year history. PHOTO COURTESY OF NETBALL SINGAPORE